30 Day Song Challenge, Day 11 – “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles

The subject for Day 11 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song from the first album you ever owned“. This will reveal how ancient I am, but the first album I ever owned was Meet the Beatles!, which I bought in 1964 when I was nine years old. My copy, pictured above, is still in mint condition. The song I’ve chosen from the album is “I Want to Hold Your Hand“, which was my introduction to the Beatles, and their first Top 40 hit in the U.S. (The version of the album released in the UK was titled With the Beatles, and featured a different list of tracks, none of which was “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.)

The Beatles recorded “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at EMI Studios in London on October 17, 1963, along with “This Boy”, which became the B-side of the 45 single released in the UK. The two songs were recorded on the same day, and required seventeen takes to complete. The single was released on November 29, 1963 in the UK, and December 26, 1963 in the U.S., although the version released in the U.S. featured “I Saw Her Standing There” as the B-side.

The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at #45 on January 18, 1964, which music historians mark as the beginning of the ‘British Invasion’ of the American music industry. It reached #1 on February 1st, and stayed there for seven weeks before being replaced by “She Loves You”, which had actually been released in September 1963, but shockingly, failed to catch on in the U.S. at the time. Despite receiving a positive review in Billboard, “She Loves You” garnered very little radio airplay, sold only about 1,000 copies, and completely failed to chart on Billboard (I previously featured “She Loves You” for another song challenge in 2020, which you can read here).

After the poor reception for “She Loves You” in the U.S., Capitol Records (the Beatles’ label for the distribution of their music in the U.S.) resisted releasing any more of their music, despite protestations by Beatles’ producer George Martin and manager Brian Epstein. Capitol finally released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” the day after Christmas 1963. 

Though the song was quickly embraced by raving fans on both sides of the Atlantic, it was dismissed by some stodgy critics as nothing more than another fad song that would not hold up to the test of time. Proving them wrong, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” went on to become the Beatles’ best-selling single worldwide, selling more than 12 million copies, and in 2018, Billboard named it the 48th biggest hit of all time on its Hot 100. In the UK, it was the second highest selling single of the 1960s, behind “She Loves You”.

Here’s their famous performance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.

30 Day Song Challenge Day 10 – “For All We Know” by The Carpenters

Well, I somehow managed to skip over the correct Day 9 subject of the 30-day song challenge and mistakenly went directly to Day 10 for Saturday’s post. So, for today’s Day 10 post I’m going to tackle “A song you never get tired of listening to“. And once again, this was a tough call, as there are hundreds of songs I love that I never tire of hearing. But pick one I must, and to make my selection a little easier, I’ve chosen a beloved song I’ve not previously written about. My pick is “For All We Know” by the Carpenters. (I have previously written about the Carpenters though, when I featured their song “Superstar” in 2019.)  

As I wrote in that earlier article, with their successful run of great singles from 1970-75, beginning with their massive hit “(They Long to Be) Close to You”, the Carpenters were one of my favorite acts back then. Their music was beautiful, with the kind of lush orchestration I love, and Karen Carpenter had the voice of an angel. Her distinctive, pitch-perfect contralto singing voice remains one of the finest of any female pop singer ever, in my opinion. I loved their music so much as a teen that I wrote a paper about them for my 11th grade English class (the only time I wrote about music or an artist until becoming a blogger several decades later). 

“For All We Know” was written for the hilarious 1970 comedy Lovers and Other Strangers, with music by Fred Karlin and lyrics by Robb Wilson Royer and Arthur James Griffin (both Royer and Griffin were founding members of the soft rock group Bread). (Most of the songs recorded by the Carpenters were written by others, other than their hits “Goodbye to Love” and “Yesterday Once More”, which were co-written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis, “Only Yesterday” by Carpenter, Bettis and Kōji Makaino, and “I Need to Be in Love” by Carpenter, Bettis and Albert Hammond.) The song was originally sung by Larry Meredith for the film’s soundtrack, and when Richard heard his version while watching Lovers and Other Strangers, he felt the song would be perfect for their style and Karen’s voice.

For the recording of the song, Richard initially wanted Jose Feliciano, who was a big fan of theirs and wanted to play on one of their records, to play guitar on the intro. They went into the studio, where Feliciano came up with an intro on his nylon string acoustic guitar, however, the following day Feliciano’s manager demanded that he be removed from the recording. (Wikipedia) Disappointed but undaunted, Richard removed Feliciano’s guitar intro and replaced it with a beautiful oboe intro by Earle Dumler (an esteemed musician who played on several Carpenters records, as well as with an eclectic range of artists such as Stan Kenton, Tim Buckley, J.D. Souther, Frank Zappa, Helen Reddy, Barbra Streisand, Robert Palmer and Nina Simone, among many others over the years). Though I haven’t heard Feliciano’s guitar intro, I believe Dumler’s sublime oboe intro had to have made the song much better. Besides Dumler’s oboe, the other instruments on “For All We Know” were played by Richard Carpenter (piano, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano), and Wrecking Crew members Joe Osborn (bass) and Hal Blaine (drums).

“For All We Know” was also recorded by Shirley Bassey at the same time as the Carpenters’ version, where it was a hit in the UK, peaking at #6, and later by Petula Clark and Nicki French. But it was the Carpenters’ recording that’s the best known and most popular, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Easy Listening chart in 1971. The song also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

An interesting bit of trivia I learned in researching the song for this write-up is that the Motion Picture Academy did not previously allow artists to perform a best original song nominee at the Oscars if they had not appeared in a film, which finally explains for me why Anne Reinking sang “Against All Odds” (in a terrible performance that included a bizarre interpretive dance) at the 1985 Oscars instead of Phil Collins, but I digress. Since the Carpenters were not allowed to perform “For All We Know” at the ceremony, they requested that it be performed by their friend Petula Clark. Clark would later perform the song in tribute to Karen Carpenter at her concert at Royal Albert Hall on February 6, 1983, two days after Karen’s untimely and very sad death. Here’s a video of that poignant performance:

30 Day Song Challenge Day 9 – “American Pie” by Don McLean

The subject for Day 9 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song you ruined by overplaying it“. This is my least-favorite item on this song challenge, because 1) it’s negative, and 2) I don’t as a rule ruin songs for myself by overplaying them. Obviously, I only intentionally play songs that I want to hear, and if I’m tired of a song, I won’t play it. However, radio stations have ruined a number of songs for me over the years by playing them over and over until I’m sick to death of them, so I’m tweaking this subject to “A song that was ruined for me by being overplayed“.

I don’t listen to much commercial radio anymore, except occasionally when in the car, but when I was a teenager and young adult, I listened to a lot of radio. When I think back on songs that I’d liked at first, but later grew to detest because they were so grossly overplayed, most were generally from the 70s and 80s. And the one that most quickly comes to my mind is the 1972 classic “American Pie” by Don McLean. It was a massive #1 hit and one of the most popular songs of the 1970s, and like all big hits, it was played to death on the radio. To make matters worse, it was so damned long, clocking in at over 8 1/2 minutes, and seemed to go on forever. I liked it at first, but after a few months of non-stop airplay (back in the day when hearing songs on the radio was our main form of listening to music besides playing them on our stereos), I came to loathe it. The moment I’d hear “Long, long time ago…” I’d jab my finger on the radio button to change the station as quickly as possible.

If I never hear “American Pie” again that would be a good thing. And if I had my own radio station, it, along with a several other songs, would not be allowed in the building.

30 Day Song Challenge Day 8 – “I Drove All Night” by Cyndi Lauper

The subject for Day 8 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song to drive to late at night“, and the first song I thought of was “I Drove All Night” by Cyndi Lauper. (A runner-up was the beautiful Cars song “Drive”, but Cyndi Lauper’s 1989 hit is a no-brainer for this subject.) The song was a sizable hit for Lauper, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, #7 in the UK and #8 in Canada. She had a string of hits from 1984-89, beginning with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, and two of them – “Time After Time” and “True Colors” went all the way to #1. “I Drove All Night” was her last single to reach the top 10 in the U.S.

The song was originally written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly for Roy Orbison, who recorded it in 1987, a year before his death, but his version was not released until 1992. Lauper recorded the song and released it as a single in April 1989. She liked the song and wanted to record her version because she liked the idea “of a woman driving, of a woman in control.” I love the strong propulsive rhythms, blasting drumbeats and edgy strings that powerfully convey the passion and urgency of a woman driving all night to get to her lover. And I really like Lauper’s vocals, which have a somewhat more mature quality than on some of her earlier songs.

The song was included on her third studio album A Night to Remember, and considered by nearly everyone to be the highlight of an otherwise disappointing album. A Night to Remember received mixed-to-poor reviews and less commercial success than her two previous albums. Because of its poor reviews and disappointing sales, as well as the problems she experienced with producer and boyfriend David Wolf⁠ during the production of the album, Lauper referred to it as “A Night to Forget”. Despite the album’s poor performance, “I Drove All Night” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

The song was also later covered by Celine Dion in 2003, whose version topped the Canadian Singles Chart and reached #7 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

Here’s Roy Orbison’s original version, which is also pretty good. The song’s official video features the young and very beautiful actors Jennifer Connelly and Jason Priestly.

30 Day Song Challenge Day 7 – “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

The subject for Day 7 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song to drive to in the morning“. I think it’s a rather odd subject, but my interpretation is that it’s a song that gets you going in the morning, and the one that immediately comes to my mind is “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf. If that adrenaline-inducing rocker – perfectly described by Hal Horowitz of AllMusic as “a roaring anthem of turbo-charged riff rock” – doesn’t charge your engines first thing in the morning, then nothing will!

“Born to Be Wild” was originally written as a ballad by Canadian rock musician Mars Bonfire (aka Dennis Edmonton), who was previously a member of the Sparrows, the predecessor band to Steppenwolf, and whose brother Jerry became Steppenwolf’s drummer. The other founding members of Steppenwolf included John Kay (born Joachim Fritz Krauledat in Germany) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Michael Monarch on lead guitar, Rushton Moreve on bass, and Goldy McJohn on keyboards. Bonfire initially offered the song to a few other bands, but “Born to Be Wild” was eventually recorded by Steppenwolf in a sped-up and rearranged version that came to define their signature hard rock sound. Those raging riffs of shredded guitars, chugging rhythms and thunderous percussion, accompanied by fantastic psychedelic keyboards and Kay’s powerful gritty vocals, made the song a classic that beautifully captured the rebelliousness of the late 60s.

The song is often invoked in both popular and counter culture to symbolize a biker appearance or attitude, partly due to being featured in the 1969 film Easy Rider. It’s also been described by many as the first heavy metal song, and the second verse lyric “heavy metal thunder” was the first use of this term in rock music. According to Robert Walser in his 1993 book Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, the words “heavy metal thunder” describe a motorcycle, not a musical style.

“Born to Be Wild” became Steppenwolf’s most successful single, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts. (It was kept from the #1 spot by the Rascals’ “People Got to Be Free”.) Rolling Stone ranked “Born to Be Wild” at #129 on their 2004 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in the same year, the song was ranked #29 on AFI‘s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. VH1 ranked it #40 in their list of the 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll in 2000, and the 53rd best hard rock song of all time in 2009. In 2018, the song was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a new category for singles. (Wikipedia)

Here’s the iconic scene from Easy Rider in which “Born to Be Wild” is featured

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 6 – “Finally” by CeCe Peniston

The subject for Day 6 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song that makes you want to dance.” This was a tough one for me, as there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of songs that make me want to dance. I considered some great dance songs by the likes of Donna Summer, Madonna, Janet Jackson and Dua Lipa, among others, but when I walked into my local Trader Joe’s last evening and heard the CeCe Peniston classic “Finally” playing on their sound system, I immediately had my song pick for Day 6. I’ve always loved the song, with its infectious throbbing bass drum-driven dance groove and her euphoric soulful and sexy vocals.

First, a bit of background on CeCe: Born Cecilia Veronica “CeCe” Peniston in Dayton, Ohio in 1969, she moved with her family to Phoenix at the age of nine. She attended high school there, and sang at church and performed in plays and musicals in middle and high school, as well as local theater groups. After graduating from high school, she studied liberal arts at Phoenix College, where she got involved in athletics, and entered beauty pageants. She was crowned Miss Black Arizona in 1989.

Her music career began in January 1991, when Felipe “DJ Wax Dawg” Delgado, a record producer and friend also based in Phoenix, asked Peniston to record back-up vocals for Tonya Davis, a rapper known as Overweight Pooch. Though Overweight Pooch’s album was a commercial flop, another DJ and producer Manny Lehman had taken notice of Peniston’s powerful backing vocals. He offered Delgado a chance to produce a track for Peniston to cultivate her potential as a solo artist. Delgado called hometown friend and music producer, Rodney K. Jackson, to help co-produce Peniston’s first single, which would become “Finally”.

Peniston began writing pop songs while in school, and initially wrote the words to “Finally” as a poem during a chemistry class, while thinking about dating and how she hadn’t yet found her Mr. Right. She was 21 years old when “Finally” was released in September 1991, and it became an instant dance hit, reaching #1 only a month later on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. The song went on to peak at #5 on the Hot 100 in January 1992, and #2 in the UK that March.

It’s major impact on the dance music genre has been recognized by numerous publications. VH1 ranked “Finally” at #29 in their list of the “100 Greatest Dance Songs” in 2000. MTV Dance ranked it #28 in their list of “The 100 Biggest ’90s Dance Anthems of All Time” in 2011. Heart TV ranked it #3 in their list of “55 Biggest ’90s Club Classics” in March 2017. Also in 2017, BuzzFeed placed it at #1 in their list of “The 101 Greatest Dance Songs of the ’90s”, noting “When it comes to ‘90s dance songs, you’d be hard-pressed to find another song that so perfectly incorporates other music genres that made the decade so great — i.e., R&B, house, and pop — which is what makes “Finally” the quintessential ‘90s dance song.” And last, but not least, Slant Magazine ranked it #37 in their list of “The 100 Best Dance Songs of All Time” in 2020. (Wikipedia)

“Finally” was featured in the 1994 Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a hilarious road comedy written and directed by Stephan Elliott. The film portrays the misadventures of two drag queens, played by Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, and a transgender woman, brilliantly played by Terence Stamp, as they journey across the Australian Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a tour bus that they’ve named “Priscilla”, encountering various groups and colorful individuals along the way. Here’s a clip of the trio’s over the top drag performance to the song:

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 5 – “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles

The subject for Day 5 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song that makes you want to travel“. There are some great songs about traveling, such as Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”, Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man”, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band”, and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. But my pick is the marvelous Ray Charles song “Hit the Road Jack“. While not necessarily about travel, the song’s bouncy R&B groove really gets the toes tapping, compelling you to move! It’s barely two minutes long, but packs quite a punch.

The song was written by R&B singer Percy Mayfield, who first recorded it in 1960 as an a cappella demo that he sent to music executive Art Rupe. “Hit the Road Jack” was later recorded by Ray Charles in June 1961, with delicious call and response vocals by Margie Hendrix, who was the lead singer of The Raelettes, a girl group originally formed to sing backup on many of Ray Charles songs. She admonishes Charles in the song, informing him in no uncertain terms that she thinks he’s a bum “you ain’t got no money, you just ain’t no good“, while his pleas for her forgiveness “Now baby, listen baby, don’t ya treat me this way, ’cause I’ll be back on my feet some day“, fall on deaf ears.

The song became a huge hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1961, as well as in Sweden and New Zealand. It also won a Grammy award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording, and became one of Charles’ signature songs.

Here’s the demo recorded by Percy Mayfield:

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 3 – “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea” by MISSIO

The topic for Day 3 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song with a location in the title”, and my pick is the mesmerizing “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea” by MISSIO. The bottom of the sea is admittedly a somewhat unorthodox location, but a location it is!

Based in Austin, Texas and comprised of singer-songwriter/producer Matthew Brue and songwriter/producer and instrumentalist David Butler, MISSIO burst onto the music scene in early 2017 with their single “Middle Fingers”. I loved the trippy song and quickly became a fan of their edgy, thoroughly original and eclectic sound that’s a glorious mash-up of gritty alternative electronic rock, hip hop and dreamy emo vibes. Then there’s Matthew’s uniquely stunning vocals that register in the higher octaves just below a falsetto, giving them a distinctive sound unlike any other singer, and making their music instantly identifiable as only MISSIO’s.

They followed “Middle Fingers” with “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea”, which spent many weeks at #1 on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation Top 18 Chart in the summer of 2017. Both songs were included on their outstanding debut album Loner, which also featured “Twisted” and “Everybody Gets High”, which was recently awarded a gold record certification by RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).

Like many of the songs on Loner, (as well as their second album The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man), “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea” was inspired by Matthew’s struggles to attain sobriety as he reflected back on his teen years as an alcoholic and addict. As noted on the website GENIUS, “he uses the feeling of being pulled down to the bottom of the sea as a metaphor for the failure to overcome addiction (or anxiety or depression).” In a 2017 interview with the Pop Break, Matthew explained that the song “is a conversation between the victim of temptation and the tempter, represented by the chorus. The way that I always describe addiction is that it’s very sexual in a way. You have this beautiful thing that’s staring at you and it’s constantly telling you to dive in. Then you actually decide to give in to whatever your struggle is, and it just pulls you down. It does a 180 and literally controls your life. Whether it be addiction, anxiety or depression—the feeling is that you’re trying to swim up from the depths and it’s just pulling you to the bottom of the sea.”

[Verse 1]
The blood surrounding my body crushing every bit of bone
The salt, it seeps into the pores of my open skin
I wait on you inside the bottom of the deep blue sea
I wait on you inside the bottom of the deep blue

[Chorus]
Welcome to my cage, little lover
Attempt to rearrange with ya, baby
Still don’t know your name, Miss Honey
Let’s go up in flames, pretty lady

[Verse 2]
The sweet surrender of silence forces me to live alone
Locked and loaded, where the hell is peace of mind?
I wait on you inside the bottom of the deep blue sea
I wait on you inside the bottom of the deep blue

[Chorus]
Welcome to my cage, little lover
Attempt to rearrange with you, baby
Still don’t know your name, Miss Honey
Let’s go up in flames, pretty lady

Musically, the song is both haunting and captivating, with an utterly brilliant arrangement. The song opens with somber piano chords accompanied by tapping percussive synths, then Matthew’s fragile-sounding vocals enter the proceedings as layers of magical and eerie synths, pulsating reverb and heavier percussion are added, creating a mysterious ethereal soundscape that evokes the dark and dangerous beauty of a deep blue sea. For me, the biggest highlights of the song are the gorgeous hypnotic piano riff during the interludes between the verses and choruses, and Matthew’s enchanting, highly emotive layered vocals. I can listen to “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea” on endless repeat.

My 2019 review of The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man has garnered more than 2,800 views, making it my highest-viewed album review ever. I’ll be seeing MISSIO live in L.A. on July 30, and cannot wait!

Header photo by Alexandra Thomas.

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30 Day Song Challenge, Day 2 – “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone

The topic for Day 2 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song with a number in the title”. There are so many great songs with numbers in their title, such as “One” by U2, “Two Hearts” by Phil Collins, “Eight Days a Week” by the Beatles and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon, to name a few that quickly come to mind. But I’ve chosen a song with a title made up almost entirely of numbers, the great power pop classic “867-5309/Jenny” by California pop-rock band Tommy Tutone. Released in November 1981, the song was a huge hit, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in the Spring of 1982. The song’s incredibly catchy, with an infectious hard-driving groove overlain with fantastic jangly guitar riffs and terrific vocals backed by equally great harmonies.

Tommy Tutone was originally formed in 1978 as Tommy and the Twin Tones in Northern California by Tommy Heath and Jim Keller, along with Terry Nails, with Heath as lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Keller on lead guitar and backing vocals, and Nails on bass and backing vocals. Like many bands, they underwent numerous personnel changes, and it was Jon Lyons who actually played bass on “867-5309”. (Lyons was soon replaced by Greg Sutton, later Pete Costello, and more recently Jimmy James.)

The song was co-written by Keller and Alex Call, who’d been a member of the San Francisco Bay Area country rock band Clover, which was active from 1967 to 1978 and best known for its member Huey Lewis and for backing Elvis Costello on his debut album My Aim is True. There have been numerous stories and myths over the years about the song, particularly the phone number and the identity of “Jenny”, some of which were created by Keller and Heath to seemingly add to the song’s lore. But in a 2004 interview with Songfacts, Call explained his version of the song’s real origins:

Despite all the mythology to the contrary, I actually came up with ‘Jenny,’ and the telephone number and the music and all that just sitting in my backyard. There was no Jenny. I don’t know where the number came from, I was just trying to write a 4-chord rock song and it just kind of came out. I had the guitar lick, I had the name and number, but I didn’t know what the song was about. My buddy Jim Keller, who’s the co-writer and lead guitar player in Tommy Tutone, stopped by that afternoon and he said, ‘Al, it’s a girl’s number on a bathroom wall,’ and we had a good laugh. I said, ‘That’s exactly right, that’s exactly what it is.’

Tommy Tutone’s been using the story for years that there was a Jenny and she ran a recording studio and so forth. It makes a better story but it’s not true. That sounds a lot better than I made it up under a plum tree in my backyard. When Jim showed up, we wrote the verses in 15 or 20 minutes, they were just obvious. It was just a fun thing, we never thought it would get cut. In fact, even after Tommy Tutone made the record and ‘867-5309’ got on the air, it really didn’t have a lot of promotion to begin with, but it was one of those songs that got a lot of requests and stayed on the charts. It was on the charts for 40 weeks.

A lot of women have told me they use the name and number as a brush off, which I think is really great. A guy wakes up with a hangover, he’s been obnoxious to some girl in a bar last night, he opens up a folded piece of paper and it’s ‘Jenny – 867-5309’. I’ve also met a few Jennys who’ve said, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who ruined my high school years’. But for the most part, Jennys are happy to have the song. A guy came up to me at one of my gigs – his family is from Florida and they had the number. They loved it, and as they’ve all grown up, everyone in the extended family has the number 5309 on their cell phones, no matter what the prefix is, so all you need to know is what cousin Bob’s prefix is. There’s a number here in town, it’s a used car lot – he’s got a big sign. It’s funny that that song has such legs and keeps going. But a lot of people who had it were really pissed off about it.”

Numerous homes around the country with the number 867-5309 were besieged with prank phone calls or come-ons from horny men looking for a ‘Jenny’. In 1982, Brewton, Alabama resident Lorene Burns told the press “When we’d first get calls at 2 or 3 in the morning, my husband would answer the phone. He can’t hear too well. They’d ask for Jenny, and he’d say ‘Jimmy doesn’t live here anymore.’ Tommy Tutone was the one who had the record. I’d like to get a hold of his neck and choke him.”

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 1 – “Orange Blood” by Mt. Joy

Since deciding a month ago to take a break from writing reviews, the number of posts I’ve written has dropped dramatically, with only six published in June, the fewest for any month in the nearly seven years I’ve been blogging. Though my overall dislike for writing hasn’t changed, the break has helped me get over some of my burnout. With that in mind, I’ve decided to embark on a 30-day song challenge for the month of July. I found a lot of 30-day song challenges in my search, but many had one or more topics that I thought were silly or that I didn’t want to write about. I finally managed to land upon one that seemed reasonably intelligent, which is the one shown above, so here goes.

The Day 1 topic is “a song with a color in the title”, and my pick is “Orange Blood” by alternative/indie folk rock band Mt. Joy. With roots in Philadelphia and now based in Los Angeles, Mt. Joy is a five-piece consisting of Matt Quinn (vocals, guitar), Sam Cooper (guitar), Michael Byrnes (bass), Jackie Miclau (keyboards), and Sotiris Eliopoulos (drums). The band is named after Mount Joy, which is located in Valley Forge National Historic Park, Pennsylvania, not far from where Quinn and Cooper grew up.

They released their debut single “Astrovan” in 2016, then followed in 2017 with three more singles “Sheep”, “Cardinal”, and “Silver Lining”, with “Silver Lining” eventually going all the way to #1 on the Billboard Triple A (Adult Alternative Airplay) chart. That song was my introduction to the band, and I’ve been a fan ever since. All those singles were included on their debut eponymous album Mt. Joy, released in March 2018. Over the next two years, they toured in support of the album, and after their 2020 tour with The Lumineers was cut short due to Covid, Mt. Joy followed with their second studio album Rearrange Us in June 2020. That album featured their wonderful single “Strangers”, which peaked at #5 on the Triple A chart.

In March of this year, they released “Lemon Tree”, the first single from their third album Orange Blood, which dropped two weeks ago on June 17th. That brilliant song features a slightly more experimental sound for Mt. Joy, with interesting time and signature changes and a fantastic blend of swirling and psychedelic guitars. They followed in April with the title track “Orange Blood”, a gorgeous song with a mellower vibe, but still featuring their signature captivating melodies and beautiful guitar work. The track starts off gently, with strummed acoustic guitar and delicate synths accompanying Quinn’s lovely vocals oozing with vulnerability. The music gradually builds with the addition of shimmery and twangy guitars, exuberant percussion, dreamy keyboards and a fine bass groove, accompanied by soaring vocal harmonies that bring goosebumps. I think this just might be my new favorite song by Mt. Joy.

About “Orange Blood”, Quinn stated that it’s “about a trip in the desert with my girlfriend. Everyone at some point should at least once find a way to tap into your subconscious and just sit still on this beautiful planet and be present.” The brilliantly-colored video, produced and directed by Hannah Edelman, is every bit as marvelous as the song. I love the trippy psychedelic imagery and warm-hued animation, interspersed with digitally-enhanced scenes of the band performing the song.

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